In the education sector, a high performing organization is one that, on average, raises substantially more money per full-time student than its peers.  So, what is it about these high performing organizations that enables them to have such effective fundraising programs?

It all starts with their investment in data, analytics and research.  High performing organizations (HPOs) tend have a higher number of prospect research staff (roughly twice as many) and spend more on data and analytics tools and services than do their peers (roughly twice as much).  In particular, high performing organizations use predictive modeling much more often than do their peers.

Most educational organizations have multiple pools of prospective donors – alumni, parents (and grandparents) of students, faculty & staff, and other donors.  These other donors might be community members, people who attend football games or plays, who work out at the gym or pool, or who have any number of other touch points with the institution.

What HPOs do well is to set up a routine process for managing and enhancing the data within their pools of prospective donors, as shown in our infographic. 

Secrets of High Performing Organizations Infographic

The first step is to make a selection from one or many of the prospect pools.  For the current reunion season, the team may pick alumni from the appropriate reunion classes, as well as parents for the most recent classes (who still may feel connected to the school).  For a capital campaign to renovate the arts center, the selects might include alumni who had a major in the arts, their parents, current arts faculty and staff and ticket purchasers from the surrounding community.  If known, they might also select those alumni who have an affinity for the arts in general.   

Whatever the selected group, HPOs will generally perform some level of data assessment and enhancement.  They may include previous giving history or metrics related to alumni engagement, such as whether they’ve attended an alumni event.  They will likely also use a “location service” to find alumni (or others) who are “lost” – meaning their address has changed (possibly more than once) or they’ve changed their name upon marriage (or divorce).  These services are also useful for confirming or adding phone numbers and / or cell phone numbers or other contact information.  Some HPOs also include information about interests, lifestyle, children in the home or other attributes to further segment and personalize their outreach. 

After data assessment and enhancement, the selected records are screened to incorporate wealth attributes, giving capacity, propensity to give, etc. to provide a complete and up-to-date profile. 

At this point, the records may be segmented for inclusion in specific fundraising programs.  For example, the lowest tier might be passed to the annual fund team for direct mail or other outreach.   Or highly rated prospects might be vetted and assigned to major gift officers.

However, depending on the fundraising activity, HPOs are also likely to create predictive models on the screened records. These models can help the research team determine who is most likely to give a major or leadership level gift, what the next likely gift amount might be, who is a good candidate for planned giving, etc.  Models can also be used to develop a full giving pyramid for campaigns. 

After screening and modeling, prospect researchers will likely perform additional research and data validation – particularly for prospective high-level donors.  This may involve confirming sources of wealth, getting more in-depth information about their business or personal interests or about their involvement with the institution.  Prospect researchers may also identify potential red flags, which could indicate a prospective donor might not be a good candidate, though they might look like one on paper. 

The prospective donors are then passed to the appropriate development teams for cultivation and solicitation.

The final step is just as important as the first – repeating the process at regular intervals so critical information regarding wealth and philanthropic potential is updated regularly.  For example, screening alumni on a 5-year rotation based on reunion class will ensure that major changes are captured, while still being cost-effective.   No matter the interval, a routine, repeatable process will ensure that your donor pipeline will remain full – resulting in more money raised for your institution.

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